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Wilansky sees spin-off in Filene's B'ment future

Gary Evans, Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, February 24, 2003

Though taking the presidential reins of Filene's Basement only very recently, Heywood Wilansky already has several clear ideas to take the off-price chain to a point where it can spin off from Value City Department Stores and become a public company — a three- to five-year project, he believes.

"I wouldn't have come back out of early retirement for a traditional department store opportunity," the former professor at the University of Maryland told Home Textiles Today. While the mid-tier department stores are "going nowhere," other areas provide greater growth prospects, like the high-end sector, including Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf, discounters such as Wal-Mart, and the off-price chains, he said.

As does the potential of the home area in the off-price arena, he added. He estimated that Filene's Basement's home assortment was about 6 percent of total sales currently and felt that it can definitely be expanded beyond that.

"I'm used to having a bigger home store," he said, having served as ceo for Foley's, Filene's and The Bon-Ton Stores. "Those stores have a home area at about 12 percent to 20 percent of sales. I'm not sure if Filene's Basement would get into that amount of penetration, but certainly more than 6 percent."

In order for Filene's Basement to become a standalone chain again — it was purchased by Value City in 2000 — it would have to double its store base, which is now at 20 units, Wilansky said.

Filene's Basement will open a few more locations this year, including the Atlanta store in late May, with others to be announced later on.

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